Week 5 of USCL play sees the Sluggers facing off with the defending champion Dallas squad. As these two teams have been in the playoff picture for the past two years and their matches always seem to be close this has taken a bit of a rivalry flavor. More importantly this season the match appears to be a do or die affair for the Sluggers. With the slow start they got off to they have been relegated to the bottom of a 3 way tie for 3rd in the West, while the Destiny are in second. A loss by the Sluggers will make getting to the playoffs a real climb. Splitting the match won't help that much. So, this paints a scene of necessity.
Dallas is a unique team. Their squad are all college aged, working their way up type players. They have a simple approach; keep all 4 games close, get one player to win and draw the rest. They are not adverse to tying some matches. My impression is that the strength of their players is relatively closer from top board to bottom than any other team. That means that if you aim to defeat them by winning on the top boards you have to be concerned about the bottom. It seems to me that Seattle might be just the team to give them trouble. With 2 tough GM's on top the Sluggers could win a game and put the pressure on the other boards. The big thing is who do the Sluggers put on 3 and 4? Of course, availability is a big question. I would think that you want to put the two players who are most likely to hold down there. That would be the formula I would take.
A quick note on last Wednesday's matches. What happened between New Jersy and Boston is a good example of team tactics and psychology. I don't know if Benjamin had some home cooking ready or Christiansen just blundered, but Boston seeing their first board lost in under 10 moves was a disaster. I suspect that it rubbed off on second board more than any, but still the Blitz players didn't change their mental outlook and got beat. The Carolina - New York match was another surprise. The Knights are having a rough season and this just added to it. In that match it appeared that events on the top two boards provided extra confidence to the entire Cobra lineup and they just went with the momentum. It got me to thinking that if the Sluggers could pull this one out and get more enthusiasm going they could still go all the way!
Last thought: this Monday Queens plays New York. The Pioneers are the only perfect team left and have proven a bit of a surprise. What concerns me is that they will be fielding a squad with 3 2500+ players this Monday. I know, you think I am crying like some kid in the schoolyard. But think about it, they are stretching the spirit of the rules here and once that happens there is no going back. Precedent will be set and teams will be looking for any way to push those boundaries. If this becomes standard my hunch is that it will not be a good thing for the USCL.